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The Best Heavy / Melodic Metal Album - Metal Storm Awards 2021





Those of you who have listened to an Ancient Empire album (or Shadowkiller for that matter) know what you can expect from Priest Of Stygia. It’s a record that once again shows Joe Liszt’s passion for traditional heavy metal. All the hallmarks of an Ancient Empire are present here. You get the very traditional-sounding production, which has just the right amount of modern touches added to it. Then there is the classic heavy metal riffing and the instantly recognizable vocals of Joe. And while Priest Of Stygia doesn’t really do anything new, it solidifies Ancient Empire as one of those projects that you can count on to deliver a quality experience.

Bandcamp / YouTube (single)
Cursed Be Thy Kingdom, on Earth as it is in Hell... Bewitcher lives to sling NWOBHM riffs like the ‘80s never ended, cruising at Motörhead speeds and reinventing thrash from the ugly dregs of riffy, evil heavy metal that first spawned it in a bygone era. This ain’t just a nostalgia trip, of course – Bewitcher’s road-ripping speed assaults are wicked fun and hella heavy. Cursed Be Thy Kingdom casts a spell to awaken hell and unleashes a satanic magic attack that will leave you lying flat on the asphalt, wondering what the hell just hit you and whether anybody got the plate number of that bright red hellmobile. Here’s a hint: the driver had hooves and a tail.

YouTube (single)

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Black Sites have been sort of flying under the radar, despite all the retro/revivalist/rehashing surges of traditional heavy metal, and maybe the reason is that they are not so traditional and simple-sounding. Untrue is a heavy metal album with progressive tendencies; a lot of different bands and influences are heard in it, from Voivod to Black Sabbath and from Fates Warning to Thin Lizzy, and that makes it a relatively diverse listen for the style it belongs to. The muscular riffs and the delicious melodies drive the music along with the Mastodon-ian drumming, creating a sound that is familiar but not at all old and tired.

Bandcamp / YouTube (single)

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The right amount of heaviness mixed with an excellent amount of enjoyable melodies makes Black Soul Horde’s Horrors From The Void another great contender this year. But not only the aforementioned melodies impressed us, oh no; there are a bunch of other things we liked. The choruses, for example. They have a nice ring to them and add to the personality of each individual track. Then there’s also the strong pacing and flow of Horrors From The Void. Combine all these positive points with some exquisite solos, tentacles, and a strong vocal performance, and you have got a quality heavy metal album. One that makes us a bunch of satisfied metalheads.

Bandcamp / YouTube (single)
No matter how often Darkthrone have changed styles over the years, there’s one thing that they have always done: whatever they want to do. Lately, that “whatever” has been laying off the crust punk and even a lot of the overt black metal for a return to the noisy, rabid, raw, and exciting demo days of the ‘80s, parlaying their affinity for old-school heavy metal and primitive thrash into a tribute to metal’s first days of being extreme. Eternal Hails……, despite its Manowar title and the six periods that follow, recalls the time of black metal’s naissance, when thrash, doom, punk, and NWOBHM swirled together into a single unearthly cauldron. In five lengthy compositions that sound like a brand-new old tape, Fenriz and Nocturno Culto conduct an apocalyptic raid on the archives of Bathory, Venom, Celtic Frost, and the whole first-wave gang for some nasty old-fashioned filth.

YouTube (single 1) / YouTube (single 2)

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Picture Dark Forest, only the forest is located in Little Britain rather than Great Britain: yes, it’s a classic-sounding, hard-rocking, folk-flavored album of heavy metal done in the Breton style courtesy of newcomers Herzel. It’s not quite power, but still somehow majestic; it’s not quite folk, but still somehow medieval. Melancholy notes of grandiose tales from distant times linger amidst the snaking vines of hooky guitar lines and soaring choruses, with dashes of Warlord and Manilla Road creeping through. The harmonized, acrobatic riffs and vaguely thin vocals are reminiscent of Angel Witch or Iron Maiden or your other favorite NWOBHM band stuck in a time capsule, and yet unlike so many of the so-called “New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal” bands who pack clubs by the thousands by claiming to do pretty much the same thing, Herzel have a genuine taste for memorable songwriting and a rare regional twist that set them apart. Herzel have managed to make themselves sound a lot older than they are – and that’s not a reference to their clear ‘80s influences, but for the legendary quality with which their epic tales are imbued.

Bandcamp / YouTube (single)

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We could tell you about how this was the longest gap between Iron Maiden albums. We could tell you how Senjutsu compares to The Book Of Souls, whether in continuing its long-form prog-tinged songwriting or in how there's slightly more brevity this time around. We could tell you about how Bruce's vocals still sound good despite the wear of age and how the album is more adapted to his current range. We could tell you how amazing it is that this band is still around more than four decades after their debut. We could tell you about how our entire staff found common ground to write two articles on the band's history. We could even make a weeb joke about the title and cover. But no, there's only one thing we really need to tell you: UP THE IRONS!

YouTube (single)

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Albums where guitarists go solo and recruit a litany of famous vocalists can be something of a mixed bag, but in the case of Silver Lake, Esa Holopainen finds success, with an intelligent roster of singers who work well with his signature guitar work made famous from his work with Amorphis. Featuring a track with Tomi Joutsen that could easily be a cut track from a recent Amorphis album and two songs with Jonas Renkse that further emphasize his talents as a guest feature following his work with The Ocean, Silver Lake By Esa Holopainen is a charming first step for Holopainen as an artist independent of his main project.

YouTube (single)

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From the ashes of the talented heavy/speed metallers Spellcaster we got Silver Talon, a band producing a heavy and progressive amalgam of the Sanctuary/Nevermore kind, with some Crimson Glory, King Diamond, and Judas Priest thrown in for good measure, and you can even hear some Protest The Hero in their compositions, too. The songwriting is very engaging, the performances are top-notch, there are three guitarists and it well bloody shows, and, finally, there is a vocalist who comes as close as it gets to the late Warrel Dane. What else do you need to be convinced?

Bandcamp / YouTube (single)

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The voice of Queensrÿche of the last decade used the pandemic lockdowns to write and record a solo album, teaming up with longtime friend and collaborator Craig Blackwell and producer Chris "Zeuss" Harris. The result is a heavy metal LP that draws from various influences and it is quite a surprising one in many aspects, with the most obvious one being that it sounds almost nothing like Queensrÿche. There is a clear influence from thrash on it - the clever, progressive, groovy, Nevermore-ish type of thrash - and some '80s U.S. power metal leanings in the vein of Sanctuary. Above all else, on Rejoice In The Suffering La Torre challenges himself in terms of what he has done in the past, demonstrating different aspects of his voice that most people didn't know he had.

YouTube (single 1) / YouTube (single 2) / YouTube (single 3)

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